Swann enjoying senior citizenship
Graeme Swann will be happy to play the ‘grandad’ figure in his first match as England captain, against West Indies at the Kia Oval tomorrow.
At 32, Swann is at least three years older than any of his charges selected to take on equally inexperienced opponents in two NatWest International T20s in the space of three days.
The off-spinner has taken over the captaincy in the absence of the injured Stuart Broad and his deputy Eoin Morgan, both struggling with shoulder problems and unlikely to play again for England this year.
Swann will not be entirely forsaking his reputation as team joker, despite his added responsibility as England seek to build up for next year’s defence of the World Twenty20 crown they won in the Caribbean 16 months ago.
True to type, he said: “I feel like a grandad to some of these boys.
“I’ve been around the block a few more times than these lads, but it’s nice to have that bit of experience under your belt.”
Swann is hugely encouraged too by the potential of the likes of Jonathan Bairstow - fresh from his scintillating international debut against India at Cardiff’s SWALEC Stadium in last week’s final NatWest Series one-day international - and several others.
“These young guys are coming into a pressure situation, but we believe they’re good enough to cope with that,” he added.
“I’m sure they’ll enjoy it once they get on to the park and realise what a good time we have as a group. They’ll love being a part of it.
“We’re very excited about these youngsters. They’ve been brought up on this format of the game and they’re exceptional at it.”
England are already eyeing their next World Twenty20 campaign, in Sri Lanka almost exactly 12 months away.
“I don’t see our team next year being vastly different from this squad now," Swann said.
“There will be the odd player that comes back in but cricket is one of those games where new superstars emerge all the time and this team has the potential to have four or five megastars.
“We’ve only had a glimpse of what Jonny Bairstow can do, we’ve not seen anything of (Ben) Stokes yet and we all know what a good player he is. Then, of course there is Jos Buttler, who does it day in day out in county cricket and will come to the party sooner or later.
“We’ve got the potential to have the most exciting top six in world cricket which is great.”
“I think we’re going to have to play a lot of spin bowling over there," he added.
“We’ve got lads like (Danny) Briggs and (Scott) Borthwick coming into this squad who are superb young spinners with exceptional records in Twenty20. I’m sure they’ll do well over the next few days, if they play.
“We’ve not got many games before Sri Lanka. We’re proud world champions, and want to keep hold of that mantle so these are vital games for us.
“It’s a bit of added pressure for me. But I’m going to enjoy that and thrive on it.”
For a variety of reasons, including personal disputes and participation in the Champions League, West Indies are this week without first-choice players such as Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Darren and Dwayne Bravo, Adrian Barath, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul and Sulieman Benn.
Captain Darren Sammy, though, is viewing their absence as a chance to blood new faces such as Miles Bascombe, Johnson Charles, Nkruma Bonner and Derwin Christian.
“We are missing guys, which is unfortunate, but we have a young side and these guys look very confident and eager to step out at the Oval,” he said.
“We have the World Twenty20 coming up and, including these two games, we only have four before that tournament. Hopefully we can come up with the right blend for next year’s world cup.
“Like England we now have a young team and players eager to express themselves with bat and ball, so it’s gonna be interesting.”